Mason, Charlotte

▪ American philanthropist
in full  Charlotte Osgood Mason , née  Charlotte Louise Van Der Veer Quick 
born May 18, 1854, Princeton, N.J., U.S.
died April 15, 1946, New York, N.Y.

      American philanthropist who for a time encouraged many artists of the Harlem Renaissance. Known as “Godmother,” she was a generous patron, but her controlling nature often caused conflict with her beneficiaries.

      Mason was born into a wealthy family. She married a prominent physician and socialized with dignitaries and dilettantes. Following her husband's death about 1903, she began to seek the spirituality that she associated with those she termed “primitives.” She began her quest by traveling through the American Southwest and living with Plains Indians. In 1927, after hearing a lecture by philosopher Alain Locke (Locke, Alain), she turned her attention to African Americans.

      The Harlem neighbourhood of New York City attracted numerous white philanthropists and publishers, and Mason soon joined their ranks. With Locke as her confidant and talent scout, Mason made her Park Avenue penthouse a centre for leading black artists, writers, and musicians, among whom were numbered the poet Claude McKay (McKay, Claude) and the painter Aaron Douglas (Douglas, Aaron).

      Mason took particular interest in the writers Langston Hughes (Hughes, Langston) and Zora Neale Hurston (Hurston, Zora Neale), but her financial support came at a price. She meddled in Hughes's life, dissuading him from visiting certain people and places, and made Hurston sign a contract that forbade her from publishing any material without Mason's express permission. Both writers reacted against such measures, and by 1932 Mason had banished them from her fold. Soon after this, her interest and involvement in the Harlem Renaissance ended.

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Universalium. 2010.

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